As an agnostic the closest thing to a regular religious experience for me is saluting the rising sun. It allows me to honour something far grander than myself, be grateful for the life that it gives, and connects me to this present moment here and now, a shining anchor if you will for the wandering mind. From a physical and physiological standpoint it also warms and prepares the muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons for the rigours of the surf experience. This not only reduces our risk of injury, it increases performance and enjoyment in the water. Case in point for surfers moving into the 30 and above bracket (Yep me included) it allows us to hook right into the smooth transition from paddling to take-off to first turn without suffering what I like to refer to as the ‘stiff stumble’. You know the one, usually resulting in you digging your rail and missing that initial off the top, rendering you too a frustrating squat in frantic hope that you make it around the foam to redeem yourself on the next section. By completing the ‘Salute to the Sun’ sequence outlined below, the first three ‘stiff stumbles’ of a session become a distant memory. So lets examine it in detail now.
Salute to the Sun Sequence
Start in a standing position with the big toes and ankles touching. Evenly distribute the weight between the balls of your feet and heels.
Inhale to raise the arms bringing the palms together and lengthen the spine. It is important to activate your core and keep the front of your ribs just below the chest tucking in. If your neck allows look up at the hands.
Exhale fold the torso forwards into a standing forward bend. Bend the knees slightly to take pressure off the lower back, reach your hands towards the ground in line with the shoulders and relax the head and neck. This forward bend stretches the calves, hamstrings, muscles that line the spine, and stretches the spinal chord and major tibial nerves (sciatic nerve’s) that run down the back of each leg. This reduces your risk of tearing these muscles, whilst greater elasticity in the nervous system loosens up your surfing stance.
Inhale look up, lengthen the spine and keep your core switched on.
Exhale to jump or step the feet back into a push-up or press-up position and lower yourself down to hover a few inches from the floor into ‘Chataranga Dandasana’. This part of the sequence is great to strengthen the chest, triceps and core muscles, aiding takeoff power and warming these muscles for that action.
Inhale come into Upward facing dog pose (Urdva Mukha Svanasana). To do this push your hands firmly into the floor and slightly back, as if you were trying to push yourself forwards along the floor. Keep your core switched on, firm the buttocks slightly, arch the lower back and look up if the neck allows. This posture warms and contracts the spinal muscles that work during take-off, and prepares the joints or bones of the spine for extension or arching.
Exhale to roll over the toes and take the hips towards the ceiling into Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Hold for 3 breaths. This posture is great to warm up and strengthen the muscles of the arm, shoulder blade and upper back. It also lengthens the muscle at the back of the spine and legs, and once again stretches out the spinal chord and sciatic nerves.
From Downward Facing Dog Inhale to jump or step the feet in between the hands, straighten the spine and look forwards.
Exhale relax the torso and head into a forward bend.
Inhale to bend the knees slightly and use your core muscles to unroll the spine one vertebra and a time, raise the torso, and lift the arms upwards and together looking at the hands if the neck allows.
Exhale lower the arms by your side into the starting position.
Repeat this cycle 5 times, or as many as required to remove stiffness from the body.
Remember for those of you living in storm ridden seascapes you can still work out the relative position of the sun and salute it through cloud, drizzle, even mizzle (mist and drizzle). And if you feel a little self conscious saluting at the beach front, or are generally too amped at the beach to even contemplate a stretch, just salute in the privacy of your home.
Ryan Huxley is the co-founder and program creator at Surfbodysoul, a website that provides safe, effective, holistic, scientific e-book exercise programs catering for surfers of all age, level and experience. Ryan is a qualified Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist, Advanced Yoga and Pilates instructor. His list of pro surfing clients includes Fergal Smith, Chippa Wilson, Anthony Walsh, Paige Hareb, Emi Cataldi & Rusty Miller.